Helping a Friend With Their Dog

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Helping a Friend With Their Dog

Post by Buddy'smyboy » Sun Oct 06, 2013 10:42 pm

For those of you who remember me, yeah I'm back :) Sorry for leaving for so long, but I never forgot about this website :wink: I always kept it in mind for if I needed help with Buddy, and now I need it for my friend's dog instead (Buddy has been great by the way). If you want to more about what I've been up to, I have a post in General.

So, let me tell you about Cisco.

Cisco originally lived with Jason, one of the sons in my friend's family. Cisco had been badly abused by men and neglected, and Jason was in the process of rehabilitating him. It took over a month before Cisco trusted him. Unfortunately, this wonderful process was cut short when Jason was killed in a vehicle accident. Jason's sister and her husband tried to take him in for a short time while they addressed Jason's property, but Cisco would get out at every opportunity in order to run back to Jason's trailer and wait for him.

Cisco now lives in a different area of the country, in a very big family (my friend's). Two 'grandparents' (not elderly ones, only in 50's), one teenage daughter (Tabby), another daughter and her husband and their three rambunctious little boys (2nd grade and younger), a female/spayed lab mix called Cupcake, a cat, and, until recently, which I will explain, a rabbit. He has lived here for about.... 2, 3 months? Definitely not more than 5 months.

From what I have heard them and my sister, who's best friends with Tabby, Cisco still has all of the problems that he had with Jason. He is shy and aggressive/fearful of men. He has growled at a friend's father, and has also nipped at the legs/trousers of another, very mild-mannered fella in the past week. The only man he has fully trusted since Jason is Ben, the grandfather in the house. Cisco also seems to have a prey-related interest in cats, and definitely rabbits. He is a mix, possibly some terrier from the look of him, probably 50 lbs. or so, and was neutered two weeks ago by them (which, based on what I've learned from this site and other scientific sources, likely only increased his already high anxiety). I know that the younger daughter, Tabby, takes Cupcake for a long walk once a day, so I assume Cisco has been on the same regiment. I believe they are fed twice a day and have water available all day. Cupcake is brushed daily or every day, so I assume similar for Cisco.

Now, for the main topic of my story. I do not have exact, perfect details as I was not there. Earlier today, my sister went over to Tabby's house so the majority of the family could take a walk down to the river. Before they could do so, however, tragedy struck big time. The rabbit was outside in her large dog kennel to enjoy the nice weather we had today. One of the family members let Cisco out of the house. Cisco began circling the rabbit's cage, found a weak spot, forced his nose and body in and attempted to attack the rabbit. The rabbit was able to escape through the hole and tried to run around the side of the house, and Cisco chased her. Around the corner Cisco caught the rabbit and killed her while the three little boys, my sister, Tabby, her mom and grandma were all following and watching and trying to stop it. Obviously it was very traumatic; one of the little boys is saying its his fault because he couldn't stop Cisco, Tabby was balling, and her sister is feeling the most guilt because she was the one who let Cisco out unsupervised. They did eventually go to the river afterwards, but now Tabby is terrified that the same thing could happen to her cat, because she was extremely attached to the rabbit, and is also afraid Cisco could hurt her as well (He has NOT, as of yet, to my knowledge, shown aggression to her or the little boys, only to small animals and men, let me clarify that).

So now I am here, back on positively to get all your advice on the situation at hand. After reading about all the rehabs and success people here and elsewhere have had with abused dogs, I know there is hope for Cisco; however, I'm leery about whether or not this is the right environment for him to continue in. When my sister told us the story, my mom said that she can't believe Lisa ever let Cisco in their home to begin with, she's so attached to him because he was Jason's that's why this happened, dogs like that shouldn't be allowed in these kind of homes with kids and pets at all, he's pushing being put down, blah, blah.... she also was pointedly staring at me the whole time she was saying this like she knew where my logical mind was going, and she was trying to fight it off with emotional outcry and negative put-downs of the dog... I call b.s. on that, as there are dogs who have had far worse problems than Cisco- even on this very website- and come out better than people would have ever anticipated.
I refuse to address emotional situations like this with illogical, quick-to-judge emotional responses.

I do, however, believe her claim that it isn't a good environment for Cisco has validity. So the question then is: can I help their family by sharing knowledge that I get from professionals and others on this website so they can help Cisco, or is it better for them to simply find a better place for him to live, ideally with no pets, kids, and men and let him drift off to yet another home? They have not proposed a plan of action for what to do with Cisco yet, so any advice I can get from this website to share with them could be crucial in determining Cisco's fate. Either way, if I mentioned to them that I could give them advice directly from many of the people on this site who work with many dogs on a regular basis I might be able to comfort them in whatever they choose. So, help, advice, anything would be greatly appreciated :)

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Re: Helping a Friend With Their Dog

Post by Nettle » Mon Oct 07, 2013 4:27 am

From a professional viewpoint, nothing much has happened. From a people viewpoint of course there has been a tragedy.

Dogs are programmed to kill prey. There is nothing unusual or remarkable in a dog killing a rabbit. It is remarkable when dogs learn to live with a pet rabbit. Some dogs will. This one isn't one of them.

It is normal for a dog that is afraid of men to continue to be afraid of men if it does not receive suitable rehab. This dog has simply continued to be afraid of men because nobody has rehabbed him.

It is normal for dogs to be distressed when their owner dies, their world is turned upside down and they are rehomed. It is normal for a stressed-out dog placed in a stressful environment to accelerate its stress. Add not just the surgery but the whole veterinary experience and it woud be abnormal if a dog was to sail through it in an aura of sweetness and light.

Rehab involves a huge and sustained commitment from everyone involved in a dog's day to day life. Where it is not possible because of a family situation, the dog will not - can not - rehab itself.

Either the dog is placed somewhere that can tolerate his quirks and/or commit to rehab, or he is euthanased. Simple but never easy.
A dog is never bad or naughty - it is simply being a dog


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Re: Helping a Friend With Their Dog

Post by Buddy'smyboy » Mon Oct 07, 2013 8:48 am

My thoughts as well, Nettle, although naturally the emotional side of the situation makes it tougher for them to see that. Maybe they'll recognize it was just instinct when things calm down a little. This family is just too busy I think. If they really wanted to, they could help him, they have the heart to do it. However, the grandparents both work, Tabby goes to school, the husband of her sister is in Massachusetts and won't have a consistent schedule for a while, and her sister is home taking care of three boys of preschool age, so I can't imagine her easily finding time to help Cisco, even if it was just inviting a male neighbor over and having him toss treats to Cisco while sitting in the living room.

Regarding rabbits, yeah, I feel lucky with Buddy, who has never snapped at a rabbit, even when one ran out in front of him and we owned bunnies for several years. I find it surprisingly stupid that my mom was so harsh on Cisco for eating a rabbit... something that dogs have been programmed to do to survive. Duh he chased a rabbit, my logic sided mind says. Even Cupcake took time getting used to the rabbit, and she doesn't have behavior problems.

So I'm guessing it will be a little while before I get to here what happens to Cisco. If they do decide to keep him and tough it out despite the complex family dynamic in their home, then giving them information on how to do so will be extremely helpful to them, I think. Because obviously he still has the same problems that he had with Jason, so nothing has improved.

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Re: Helping a Friend With Their Dog

Post by emmabeth » Mon Oct 07, 2013 10:08 pm

Buddy'smyboy wrote: I refuse to address emotional situations like this with illogical, quick-to-judge emotional responses.

Before I get started I just wanted to quote that line - I love that. That will get you a long, long way, and gives you a degree of maturity the vast majority of adults cannot achieve!

So onto Cisco.

As ever, I do agree with Nettle completely.

I think the best thing you can do now is be a voice of reason if at all possible - Cisco COULD be 'fixed' but it would take work. You can outline what that work might entail to give them a clue (as it sounds like they don't really have one)... and I would strongly recommend you explain how to safely manage the dog whilst they decide whether they can take on the work themselves.

Be honest with them - it will take work, and it may well take them adjusting their lives and their expectations. If they don't want to do that, or can't do that, then as Nettle says - rehome to someone who can, or euthanise the dog.
West Midlands based 1-2-1 Training & Behaviour Canine Consultant

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